Election Live, September 13: Covid-19 case attended North Shore gym class; worker at Jet Park tests positive

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 13, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other New Zealand news. Find official Covid-19 information here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. Contact us at info@thespinoff.co.nz

8.05pm: Person who tested positive attended gym classes on North Shore

On the eve of the decision around whether to change the current alert level settings comes the news that an individual who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 attended three gym classes at Les Mills in Takapuna last Wednesday and Thursday. The person also visited Countdown and The Warehouse in Milford.

More details here.

7.00pm: The day in review

There were two new cases of Covid-19 reported, including a health worker at the Jet Park hotel quarantine facility in Auckland.

The decision on alert level status crept closer, with Jacinda Ardern expected to announce what change, if any, on Monday at 1pm in Dunedin.

The writ was signed by the governor general, signalling, among other things, the arrival of election ads on radio and TV.

Two Waitematā District Health Board staff members were revealed to have contracted Covid-19.

6.30pm: Campaign ads begin airing

The signing of the writ (see 2pm) opened the door to election ads on TV and radio, and they’re wasting no time. The Labour Party aired its 30-second leader in a red jacket down-the barrel ad in the priciest slot of them all – the first break in the six o’clock news – on both TVNZ 1 and Three.

No sign at time of writing of the National Party’s 30-second leader in a blue jacket down-the barrel ad on TV, but it was launched today online.

In case you missed them, here they are:

2.00pm: Putting on the writs

An important formality of the election run-in was marked today: it’s writ day. Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy has signed the writ directing the Electoral Commission to conduct the general election on October 17.

The writ must be issued within a week of the dissolution of parliament, and that took place – after a Covid-prompted delay – last Sunday. The Electoral Commission is required to return the writ, inked with the names of the successful electorate candidates to the Clerk of the House of Representatives within 60 days of issue – so by Thursday November 12 – if no application for a recount is received.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Alicia Wright, with The Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy, at Government House for the signing of the writ.

“The issue of the writ is a key constitutional step in the election process,” said the chief electoral officer, Alicia Wright, in a statement. “It sets out the dates for candidate nominations to close, election day, and the date the writ must be returned showing the successful electoral candidates.”

If you’re thinking of standing, time is now short. Registered parties have till noon on Thursday to bulk nominate electorate candidates and supply party lists; noon on Friday is the deadline for individual candidate nominations.

The writ-signing also means electoral rolls close for printing (but you can still enrol all the way up to and including election day), while candidate and party broadcast advertising can start.

Advance voting opens in New Zealand on October 3.

1.10pm: Quarantine worker tests positive for Covid-19

A health worker from Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility has tested positive for Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has announced via a press release.

The ministry is investigating to determine whether the infection came from within the quarantine facility, and says “at this stage no obvious links to other cases in the community have been established”.

The person’s role is “managing people in quarantine after they test positive for Covid-19”, says the ministry.

The case was discovered via routine weekly testing. “The health worker was tested last week and returned a negative test, so has picked up the virus in between the weekly tests which are done as part of the regular testing of people working in the quarantine facility,” says the ministry.

“Thorough tracing of which people in quarantine the health worker had contact with is being undertaken, as is genome testing to see what strain of the virus the health worker has to help identify the source.” The results of the genomic testing are expected tomorrow.

(For an explainer on genome sequencing and why it’s an important part of the Covid fight, read this.)

Five household contacts are in isolation at their home and are being tested today, and Jet Park staff regarded as close contacts have been stood down. A deep clean of staff areas at the facility has been completed, and all staff are being retested over the next 48 hours. A mobile testing unit will be operating at the quarantine facility today assisting the usual testing service.

This is the first time a staff member at Jet Park has tested positive for Covid-19 in five and a half months of operation, says the ministry. “In that time the facility has managed 2532 individuals and their close contacts, who have been transferred from the border, from other
managed isolation facilities and the community.

“Auckland Regional Public Health Service is working closely with the quarantine facility to help with double checking protocols and procedures for keeping safe both staff and people they’re caring for.

“We know that staff working in the quarantine facility are at a higher risk of infection than the general population, which reinforces the importance of the protections already in place.”

Further details about the precautionary steps being taken at Jet Park, such as tracking the worker’s recent movements and standing down and testing close contacts, will be provided today by the MIQ team.

“PPE is one of a number of protection measures used by staff and a review by the Infection Prevention Control service by the Northern Managed Facilities Quality and Risk team will be carried out to see if the source of the infection can be found and to make recommendations for any additional precautions that should be taken in future.”

Case at border and numbers

Today’s other case first is a returnee to New Zealand who arrived from South Africa on September 8 and tested positive in managed isolation. They remain in quarantine in Canterbury.

There are now 63 people linked to the community cluster who are in the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 38 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts, says the ministry.

Within the community cluster, there are 33 cases in the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship group and 15 cases in the bereavement events group, which includes the cases whose source of infection was the bereavement events.

Three people are currently in hospital with Covid-19 – one is in isolation on a ward in Auckland City Hospital and two are in ICU, at North Shore and Waikato hospitals.

With today’s two new cases and 13 additional recovered cases, New Zealand’s total number of active cases is 97. Of those, 39 are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and 58 are community cases. The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is now 1,446. Yesterday, laboratories processed 7,211 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 864,469.

12.15pm: On The Spinoff today

A fascinating profile of Robett Hollis, the extraordinary Māori entrepreneur who went from pro snowboarder to business leader, by Michael Andrew.

A wonderful photo essay by Edith Amituanai, with words by Sherry Zhang, on drain-layer “Professional Mud Dog”, aka Ses Tohi, and his team of tradies at work on a major roading project in South Auckland.

Taxation academic Jonathan Barrett explains how New Zealand’s narrow tax base benefits the wealthy and punishes the poor.

The story behind a new children’s book that aims to use the meteoric rise of the Tongan men’s rugby league team to inspire a new generation of Pacific readers, by Justin Latif.

A delicious cauliflower, onion and olive tart recipe from Emma Boyd.

9.15am: Cabinet to review alert levels tomorrow

Cabinet will be meeting tomorrow to review New Zealand’s current alert levels, with an announcement made that day. The country is currently at alert level two, but Auckland is colloquially at level 2.5, with extra restrictions on gatherings. If the levels do change, it will be at 11.59pm on Wednesday, September 16.

For the last three days, community cases have numbered at two, one, and two, but it’s not as simple as case numbers. Cabinet will be considering a range of factors – here’s an explainer Toby Manhire prepared earlier, when the last alert level change was being decided.

8.30am: Two Waitematā DHB staff test positive for Covid-19

Two Waitematā District Health Board staff members have contracted Covid-19, reports Stuff. In a statement, the DHB said both workers are believed to be connected to the Mt Roskill sub-cluster and were not infected at work.

One of the positive cases was on leave before becoming infectious and has not been back to work since, the DHB, which covers the North Shore, Rodney and West Auckland regions, told Stuff. The other has been off work since late last month and is part of a “non-patient-facing team” whose other members have since been tested and have all returned negative results.

A total of 17 staff who had contact with one or both workers prior to their diagnosis were stood down early last week as a precautionary measure. All have since tested negative, but will remain off work and in isolation until 14 days after the potential exposure, and will take another test around day 12.

During the first Covid-19 outbreak, seven Waitākere Hospital nurses and at least three close contacts contracted Covid-19 after residents from St Margaret’s Rest Home and Hospital were moved there. In April, a major incident review carried out by Waitematā DHB found that while full PPE was available to staff at all times, some gowns and eyewear were deficient.

8am: On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • National’s Judith Collins and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will both be in Auckland.
  • NZ First’s Winston Peters will head to the Wairarapa region, with a visit to Carterton.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour will be in Hamilton in the evening for a public meeting at Te Rapa racecourse.
  • Green Party co-leader James Shaw will be in Manawatū.

Yesterday’s headlines

Two new cases of Covid-19 in the community were announced. Both are linked to the bereavement events sub-cluster that is epidemiologically linked to the Mt Roskill church group.

Protesters gathered in Auckland for a “freedom rally” alongside Advance NZ party leaders Billy Te Kahika and Jami-Lee Ross.

Labour announced it would reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance for higher-skilled courses if re-elected, as well as increase the amount of money beneficiaries working part-time could earn.

Labour also pledged to pay the living wage to public service contractors which would include cleaners, caterers and security guards.

The Greens announced its agriculture policy which would see $297 million go towards helping farmers decarbonise and transition to a more sustainable future.

The Māori Party announced its Mokopuna Māori Policy, which would see a brand new entity for Māori children established independent of Oranga Tamariki.

Read yesterday’s updates in full here.



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